How to take care of a Ficus Bonsai Tree

General information: This is a huge tree growing to 60 feet tall and 60 to 70 feet wide. The dense, rounded canopy and gracefully drooping branches of Weeping Fig made it quite popular as a landscape tree until recently. The thick, shiny, two to five-inch-long, evergreen leaves generously clothe the long branches, and the tiny figs eventually turn a deep red. Branches will weep toward the ground forming a canopy so dense that nothing grows beneath it. 
There are over 600 species of Ficus, most of them tropical and evergreen, although some, most notably F. carica, the common fig, are deciduous. Ficus produces a unique "fruit" which is actually an inverted flower. Not all Ficus produce edible fruit.
Ficus is one of the most loved bonsai for many reasons. It is an excellent tree for beginners, as most species of Ficus are fast growers, tolerant of most any soil and light conditions, make fine indoor bonsai, and perhaps most importantly, are remarkably forgiving of those just learning bonsai watering techniques. Most Ficus grow "banyan" roots naturally; this feature is often showcased by styling Ficus in dramatic air-root and root-over-rock styles.

Family: Moraceae

Lighting: Most Ficus will grow decently in low light, but thrive in high light conditions.

Temperature: Hardy in zones 10B through 11. With the exception of F. carica, most Ficus are tropical, and require temperatures above 55F. An excellent choice for an indoor bonsai. Indoor Ficus appreciate being brought outdoors during summer. Does not like draughts

Watering: Moderate, increasing in summer and decreasing in winter. Many Ficus are very tolerant of being over or under watered, which makes them ideal for beginners. Ficus likes a daily misting to maintain humidity.

Feeding: Every two weeks during growth, every 4-6 in winter, using a half-strength plant food or a bonsai fertilizer.

Pruning and wiring: Ficus are suitable for most styles of bonsai, but are especially suitable for styles which make use of their property of extensive rooting, such as air-root and root-over-rock styles. Ficus can be used for all sizes of bonsai, although, obviously, the small-leaved species make the best miniature bonsai. Leaf pruning can be used to reduce leaf size. Ficus can be wired, but become quite stiff when lignified, and thus are best wired while the shoots are a bit green. Watch carefully to see that the wire doesn't bite in, as Ficus is a very fast grower. Prune back to 2-4 leaves after 6-10 leaves have grown. Ficus will bleed milky latex profusely. Many books recommend use of cut paste or other sealant for this reason. I've tried it, and found it to be more trouble than it's worth, since the oozing latex makes it difficult for the cut paste to adhere. In any case, when the latex dries, it forms its own natural seal. Gustafson recommends using a dull pruning tool on Ficus, as a clean cut made by a sharp tool tends to bleed more than a ragged- edged cut.

Propagation: One of the easiest plant to root from cuttings; although the specifics for maximum success vary with species, it's always worth sticking them into soil for the heck of it, unless you're already overrun with baby Ficus! My success rate, doing nothing special except an initial dose of Super thirve, is at least 80 Very large diameter cuttings of Ficus can be successfully rooted. Air-layering is also quite easy. Ficus can be grown from seed, but require heat and humidity, and easily succumb to mold. I recommend growing from seed only if you desire a rare Ficus that can't be purchased easily.

Repotting: Every 2-3 years, although some will grow rapidly enough that yearly repotting may be necessary. Ficus is the single most forgiving bonsai in terms of repotting season. The best time is before a new growth spurt, especially in spring, but Ficus can literally be repotted any time of year if reasonable after-care is given. Roots can easily be pruned by half. Basic bonsai soil is recommended, although Ficus tolerates many soil conditions.

Pests and diseases

Pests: Scale, eelworm, black fly, thrips.

Diseases: Anthracnose fungus and various forms of rot. Some ficus will lose leaves if over watered or given too little light (see addenda for individual Ficus care).

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